Positive Attitudes with Brian Dang
For the first AfterWords feature, I'm excited to introduce you to Brian Dang. Full disclosure: Brian came up with the name, AfterWords and it outvoted the other suggested names by a massive margin. So, congrats, Brian! You get the first feature in AfterWords.
First, I'll let Brian introduce himself a little bit:
I'm Brian Dang, a student living in Canada studying, unsurprisingly enough, English. I mainly write short stories and flash fictions. Though occasionally I delve into the novella or novel length works. I've even completed a NaNo in my lifetime which was an exhilarating ride. My main genre is literary works, usually with tints of magic realism. I basically enjoy obscuring the world around me. Though that isn't to say I wouldn't write in things like fantasy or sci-fi. I enjoy consuming those genres, but if I were to write them I'd probably do so in a subtle way.
What inspires you as an artist?
Other creators, big or small, who work every day at the behest of making art that they enjoy and that others enjoy. It's inspiring to see the world be filled with so many talented people and how their works can be connected through the internet. Never before could you have possibly been able to interact with the very people who made the things you enjoy. Despite all the hardships, all the stigma, and all the climbing, people still create. It is within our blood to preserve and strive to make the art we want to make. It's breathtaking seeing others achieve their dreams, and it pushes me every day not in spite of them, but to find myself paving a road I can call my own.
Likewise, I'd like to spread this to other sapling artists. I was inspired by these very niche artists who had just been discovered through projects like To The Moon, Dysfunctional Systems, and RWBY. I could feel the passion and their hard work emanate through me and it really pushed me to want to just start creating. These people, who've made these products for the populace to enjoy probably don't know the extent to which they've impacted me to be an artist. And I'm sure other's had also been inspired. I'd like to one day be able to do that for someone else, to give them hope, to give them something to grasp onto.
Tell me about your writing process:
The title. Yup, I start with the title. When I sit down, cracking my knuckles, getting into all sorts of unhealthy sitting positions, I start reciting words. I'll put on a relaxing soundtrack, maybe browse a few pictures, but ultimately I end up closing my eyes and drown in the sounds in my ears. I start saying broken phrases and sentences. I draw out every word within my reach and I string together some semblance of a title. I find myself needing to ground myself in a world when I write. The title is that ground.
For example, there's a short story that I'm currently editing for my blog titled, Washed Away. Before I even started encompassing myself in where we are, who we're with, what we're doing, why we're doing, and how we're doing, I needed a title for the piece. I needed a tone. Maybe that title actually appears in the piece, or maybe it just sets the piece. But either way, I have to start with the title. I liken in to having a child. You don't wait to give them a name a few years after they're born. You start them off with a name. Names are powerful, they can determine the fabric of a person, and likewise a story.
The actual body of the story is basically jazz. Once I have a title, I just go. The title gives me the general gist of what I want to write and I just start putting words down. Very often I write with music to guide my tone. Very often, I even mimic the music, making the scenes lull in a specific pattern. And other times, I look at pictures and use that as a setting. But I don't often plan out characters and actually think through them before I get to writing. All of that is happening while I'm writing. If you're surprised about what happened in one of my stories, then so was I.
Biggest challenge for you, and how have you overcome it? (Or how are you working to overcome it!)
The physical answer: NaNoWriMo. Seriously, an entire month to write a 50k (give or take) novel which amounts to about 1666 words a day or if you're really frisky, spend a weekend busting out upwards of 10-15k words. It's basically our marathon. When I did my first NaNo it was such a pivotal moment for me to learn just how headstrong I could be in writing a long-form narrative. Sure the final product probably isn't anything to write home about, but the very fact that I managed to stick to a routine of writing, forming a story, and even doing light edits along the way really gave me a push to want to continue this journey. I think everyone should in their career try NaNo. It was such a pivotal and important moment for me in really defining my love of writing.
But here's the not physical answer. Understanding that my place as a writer is among many other writers. Even more so, my existence is among other great creators that are of my generation. Understanding that I am doing the best work that I can do, and that I shouldn't worry about the workings of other people. There's really no reason to compare or gauge my work with those of a greater sphere. And other people shouldn't either. We, as artists, should strive to do the best we can and be proud that we are creating. The very fact that we create speaks volumes about who we are. Understanding this and realizing that I don't need to be the next Atwood or Boyden has been liberating. I'm content with just writing and putting out my work. In the end, isn't that what this is all about? Having fun? Doing the things we enjoy? That's the dream of so many, to find and do the things that keep them going. This is my passion, and so I'll push and pave the road I've chosen. Fame or not, recognition or not, all I need is to be proud and keep writing.
What do you consider your biggest strength? (Don’t be shy!)
In general, I think my attitude is probably my biggest strength. To relate to what I said prior, it's my ability to be able to always see the good in everything that happens. I like to call myself a super optimist, and I almost always live on the other side of the grass. Along with this is just my general willingness to accept. I'd like to claim that I have an open mind for almost anything, be it games, literature, music, I just enjoy everything in life. I almost am never bored or find aversion to the things I do. Maybe a little bit cheesy to say my biggest strength is happiness. But, yeah.
In terms of writing, probably dialogue. And I mean that in the literal sense of dialogue, but also setting the scene of dialogue and creating action while the talking is happening. That's what dialogue should be, not just two heads talking to each other, a la talking head syndrome, but a movement between two characters. There should be meaning to dialogue beyond just the words. At least, that's what I strive for.
I love your Schoolofwords project, so creative! Tell everyone a little about that, and where you got the inspiration.
Aha! Right, SchoolOfWords is my little nod to my creative writing teacher. Basically, the whole concept of SchoolOfWords was to take (hopefully) interesting and new words and learn them. But learning new words on itself isn't as exciting as most would think. So instead, I take these words and their definitions and use them for the basis of flash fiction.
When you learn a new word, I feel like you should interact with that word, put it into a sentence maybe, and really play with how you understand that word. My way of doing that is through creating flash fiction and hopefully extending the reach of how that word could be used and what it could encompass. It's my own little classroom to teach myself, and maybe others about the strange space of words that we never knew existed.
But I mentioned my creative writing teacher. This was actually inspired by him. Every day he would give us a new word to add to our "lexicon." And these were very new words to me, and basically everyone else in class. Right after giving us the definition of these new and complex words, he'd follow up with an anecdote. It made remembering the word easier while also giving us association with the word. He interacted with the word, played with it, and inserted life to those words. He made words living to me. And so, I likewise wanted to do the same. I wanted to breed life into words. And so the SchoolOfWords was established and is still ongoing, all new students welcome.
Any other advice for authors, based on your unique experience?
Edit. Edit. Edit. Or find an editor, maybe a friend. Editing is your best friend. And I don't mean just editing for basic grammar. I mean combing through every single sentence, image, and symbol you use and putting pressure onto your choices. Ask yourself whether you can condense that sentence more. Ask yourself whether you can be more clear in describing your image. Ask yourself if you are actually describing a scene, or just telling me a scene. Ask yourself whether certain details fit in context. Does this metaphor actually work? Or am I just trying to be nuanced? I'm not saying to second guess yourself and to put doubt into your talent. No, that's not it at all. The very fact you're writing means you're talented. The very fact that you're on the page is amazing, and you should keep writing. But realize that, yeah, your first draft is probably not looking so hot.
And that's okay. So go ahead and edit. Edit. Edit. We only make better products through editing and failing. So fail faster, and then pick yourself up, and revise. If you can edit and pick things out from a first draft, it'll save you out in the long run. So don't be afraid if you've revised half or all of a first draft. That's the point. Fail faster, edit, and be proud. It'll be worth it to see your product shine so much brighter after the care you've put in.
Where can other authors or readers connect with you?
Where can your work be found?
Stop on by my blog if you're feeling like taking a look at www.BrianDWriting.wordpress.com, or on my Wattpad where I have some of my works there if that's more your jam. Also, make sure to check out schoolofwords.wordpress.com for my flash fiction series I was talking about before. If you're on my blog you'll probably find a whole slew of content there, and yeah, I know it's very reminiscent of a mess. But that's how I am, scattered and picking up threads as I go. It's somehow very much me, a beautiful mess, if I may.
Is this allowed? Can I give a quick shoutout to Cameron Frank? The man who devised this project and is also working on a bunch of cool things, check this guy out... Does this shout even work if you're here reading this interview? I don't know, but shoutout if you haven't checked out this man's work. I mean, seriously, Echo was really great. Full disclosure.
Hey thanks for the shout-out, Brian! I promise I didn't tell him to say that. But seriously, this was incredibly inspiring to me. I love hearing about Brian's super positive attitude and his affinity for creating great art. Especially discussing your place as an author. It's important to remember to not try so hard to try and manufacture greatness and be something you aren't. Be yourself, and create the content that fits you, and everything else will fall into place. So good!
I strongly encourage you to check out his SchoolOfWords project, it's really fun and creative! Make sure and come back next week for another awesome AfterWords interview and meet another great artist!